Some years ago. when I was speaking to the Core Program of 16 senior officers of the ranks of Maj./Lt. Generals and their equivalent at the College of Air Warfare Secunderabad, on the subject of my book “Generals and Governments in India and Pakistan”, I was asked why have the Armed Forces been so marginalized even in military decision making in the India?
My response was that, the situation was of their own making; and a fact that sociologists have no logical answers to.
Moreover, my view was that if you feel strongly enough about something, you should either stand up for it or resign and walk off.
This obviously didn’t go down well with my audience! That indeed is the key question. To what extent are the brass hats willing to stand up on a matter of principle?’
Let’s take two examples of General Rodrigues or even Lt. General SP Raman. They both made remarks that they later withdrew under pressure and rendered a public apology.
How sad. Perhaps the lure of privileges was too dear to them!
But this wasn’t always the case. After independence, when asked by the bureaucracy, to define the status of Officers by rank, Cariappa’s response was that the status of all Officers was the same, of a Commissioned Officer. Ranks were purely for administrative purposes. And, when prodded more for an answer, he curtly replied. ‘I do not wish to discuss this matter further.’
The team led by Lt. Gen Srinagesh to finalise the Cease Fire Line in Karachi in late 1948, has distinguished military officers (though then of mid-level ranks) such as later Generals Prem Bhagat and SK Sinha. It also had the then Defence Secretary in it, by the way, but not as the team’s leader. But today, a Director (equal to a Colonel) in the Ministry of Defence, regularly questions the wisdom of a well-considered proposal put up by a Lt. General or even a Vice Chief. Anyone who has had any experience of how things get done in South Block, will agree with me.
India has the most absurd civil military equation in the world.
In most democracies, the military is either controlled by the Politicians (as in France and China) or by technocrats (as in the US).But in India, the Armed Forces are not only answerable to the politicians but well below the Bureaucrats and the police in the hierarchical pecking order.This must change.
For a rank obsessed organization like our Armed Forces, which have for decades compared themselves only with the bureaucracy, the recommendations of successive pay commission are annoying.
In fact, The Economist once did a piece about Britain’s class system and it showed the Armed Forces as a class apart. It’s about time our Armed Forces saw themselves as such.
The bureaucracy needs to be reminded that the civil-service academy in Mussoorie (LBSNAA) was set up by an Army Officer, Brigadier Sharief and on his retirement as Chief, at the age of 54.
General Srinagesh was asked to set up the Police Academy in Hyderabad.
Tragically, both the IAS and IPS today see the Armed Forces as their inferiors. Why?An incident that took place in Ambala Cantt in the 1980s. could perhaps help explain this. When Officers were asked what can be done to improve their lot, a Young Officer stood up and said. “Sir, we should have a Chiefs fund, where every officer pays a rupee a month. This should be our assured gift to a Chief on his retirement. Hopefully, they’ll then, not sell us to the Government”.
The strong sentiment expressed in this message was clear .
“IT IS ABOUT TIME, OUR BRASS HATS DEVELOPED GUTS AND STAND UP TO THE CIVILIANS.”